31 March 2013

First quarter 2013 - Reading and watching

thanks to local book club selections i read higher brow stuff than i watched. i still found lots to enjoy in the movies and tv i discovered though. :)

books:
- annabel. 4.5/5. think this is a romance novel? wrong. :) its for my english-speaking book club here in helsinki. i kept putting off reading it because of the cover and the ho-hum description. its a great read though! a hermaphrodite child is born in super rural/harsh labrador, canada. dont eye roll or yawn about the hermaphrodite plot, it works really well as the anchor of the book. i actually fell instantly in love with the way the location(s) and land that the characters live in is described in such a way that it permeates your brain. its like a painting with an achingly beautiful landscape that has tiny interesting people painted in the foreground, you dont know what to look at or absorb first, but the whole thing really sticks with you, as a unit. im sure it also helps that while ive never been to labrador, there is also mention of newfoundland, nova scotia, and boston in the book. places ive been and enjoyed, and i was transported right to them with the characters.

- the sense of an ending. 4.5/5. this was another english language book club book choice. the first part of the book is the narrator relaying the events of his life, particularly those occurring before he gets married. he grapples with his memory of the events and the consequence of the holes he knows must be there. the second part of the book involves an event taking place that puts him in touch with people/events from the past he just informed us about. he discovers not only were some of his actions not as his memory recalled, but other events in his friends lives were not as they seemed. he is a harmless, average old man as he narrates and he has a very honest way of looking at his life, and taking responsibility, if in a slightly wimpy way. i like his imperfectness, and his pondering. this was a different kind of book for me. another good choice.

videos from rennes (from friend jj):
- a lipdub about poverty from the office he retired from. he can be seen for a few seconds starting at second 0:40.
- the charleston across rennes.

movies/tv:
- downton abbey. 4/5 (for seasons 1, 2 & 3). episodes i really liked: S1E6, S2E7-9, S3E1. im impressed that they can sketch such well-rounded characters with such a large cast. they help us keep everyone straight as well as all of their roles in the house and society, and each persons sensitive side and cutthroat side is shown. the trouble is there is way too much tumult/drama for me, always weaving and scheming to make someones life horrible and then somehow giving them everything they want/deserve only to steal it from them again a few episodes down the line. it works well for a season or two. but if thats the whole driver of the show, it begins to get tired at about the third season mark. and that is where they are. i'll tune in for season 4 i suppose, but im concerned.

- the vow. 3.5/5. nice fluff romance. i thought they actually worked well together, not so well as rachel with ryan gosling...but, you cant have everything.

- magic mike. 4/5. extra half a star for channing tatum when he slides around the stage. its not his face, body, or dancing. its the sliding around. and from what i can tell he's such a sweet guy, in general. no matter what character he plays he's always playful and kind. i suppose that doesnt make him the best actor, but he's a good guy. didnt realize stephen soderburgh directed it.

- new girl. 4.5/5 for seasons 1 & 2. hadnt been interested to watch this and im not exactly sure what convinced me to try it out, but im glad i did. ive always been on the fence about zooey deschanel. she works in this part, and they also have her evolve a bit, which is helpful. shes not a quirky pixie the whole time. her 3 other roommates are interesting and funny in unusual ways. they arent real personalities, but they are comical and they do all work together. its been a fun slice to watch. favorite episodes: S1E3, (S1E4), S1E5, (S1E12), (S1E15), S1E24; S2E1-3, S2E6, S2E15-17, S2E19, (S2E20), S2E21, S2E23-25

- warm bodies. 4/5. and just when i think the rom com genre is dying...this was sweet and funny. too cute to pass up. i love that everyone committed to the comedic zombie love. the lead guy was perfect (and yummy, if i do say so) and i loved the nod to romeo and juliet in their characters.

March in the city

while settling in to a regular routine of swimming days and library visiting, we also managed a lot of side stops at some new places this month.

kid-friendly:
-libraries (rikhardinkatu, suomenlinna, oulunkylä, herttoniemi, vuosaari, laajasalo). im pretty much doing a tour of the city libraries. of the ones visited this month, the oulunkylä, vuosaari, and laajasalo ones were impressive.
-childrens town museum. its in the city center, right off senate square. a free museum. theres a room with 6 dollhouses (that you can really play with!), some puppets and dress up clothes, and an old-fashioned school house exhibit. there are a few fun places to play and explore, but nothing that would take more than an hour to entertain.
-suomenlinna. the citys fortified island. we took a ferry through ice to get there (so cool!). it was a nice sunny chilly day but X wasnt in the mood to explore or walk much so we didnt get far, but we certainly saw enough to know it would be a great spot to come back and spend time on a warmer day. there were hiding places in the fortified walls, tons of paths along the sea, the city to one side, the open water on the others. very beautiful.
-helsinki winter gardens. a greenhouse with three rooms and a koi pond. we loved the cacti room. we went when they had easter decorations around. people were bringing picnic food and eating at little tables among the greenery. very neat.

      
    
("bakery" in childrens museum; broken up ice the ferry boat driver had to navigate through to suomenlinna; suomenlinna fortified walls; central room in the helsinki winter gardens)

nature:
-vantaa river. we walked north from the dam in vanhakaupunki along the frozen river, through the tunnel under the highway into a more forested river trail by the viikinmäki neighborhood. it was very pretty and easy to walk a small piece of this long river trail and get out to a bus stop to go home whenever you are done.
-stromsin kartano. over in the itäkeskus neighborhood this is an estate land with paths and lots of water access. the bay was still frozen when we went, so we walked on the ice.
-arabianranta coastline. so, this is where i want to live for our next apartment, in this neighborhood. its still developing but has a great location on the water without being crammed in the city center. when we walked the coastline it was still mostly iced over, but there was some open water for X to throw ice/snow/rocks in and their were lots of people out (its got a popular cross-country ski trail/path). we walked north and ended up by the vantaa river mouth.
-ruoholahti canal/bridges. this neighborhood would be my second favorite, but is definitely adjacent to the bustling city center core, so its less appealing in that way, but the canal area is a nice spot with lots to offer. within a stones throw there are 3 playgrounds, 4 pedestrian bridges, and a canal walk on both sides. there were ducks when we went. the area is near to everything, yet quiet/calm.

  
(under the bridge from vanhakaupunki area along vantaa river north; open water near coast of arabianranta)

errands:
-etola. kind of like a "pier 1" mixed with a kids toy store.
-kankurin tupa. the fancy souvenir shop in the heart of the city. the top floor is filled with only moomin stuff, the main floor is filled with mountains of finnish souvenirs, and on the bottom floor it is always christmas.
-bockin talo. the building across from the church on senate square that is filled with souvenir shops, but very typical tourist shops. i suppose i would go there for little tchotchkes, but its not as good as kankurin tupa.
-iittala/arabia/fiskars outlet. this place could be addicting. such solid, simple quality pieces, beautiful designs. i really, really shouldnt have registered for anything for our wedding. i want a house full of this stuff instead.
-arabia posti. great post office with lots of artsy gift choices as well, its in the same shopping center as the arabia/iittala outlet.
-ateneum gift/book shop. this is the gift shop for the citys big art museum. it has great tourist items for adults and kids.
-anton & anton. a speciality grocery store. when i went i got craft beer, fancy chocolate and cheese, and some dense pastry (like a UP pastie) filled with meat/rice and salmon/rice. the items were quite good, but i wouldnt make the special trip to this store anytime soon.
-pihlis kirppis. our neighborhood thrift store, it has some decent things. certainly something to do on a crappy, stay-near-home kind of day.
-aarikka. very typical finnish design house: wooden jewelry and home decorations. simply gorgeous. so elegant yet natural looking. i also discovered their "factory outlet", literally at their factory in a slightly sketch part of town. most things looked first quality enough to me. i bought a great pairing of navy blue earrings. i think i shall be back. look out accessories!
-eyeglasses hunt. i went to keops, silmälasistudio, specsavers, and silmäasema before finally settling on the darn neighborhood store (optikko@pihlajamäki) for some long overdue new eyeglasses. i got some 50s style frames and some ray ban sunglasses (prescription) are in the works too. i'll be all set.
-tiger. a danish company. kind of like a dollar store but with nicer things, its hard to leave without buying something.
-thrift store alley. on mäkelänkatu there are a handful of thrift stores, most are not super awesome, but there is lots of browsing that can be done for hidden gems like toys and books and household randomness.
-marimekko. we had been to the store in the city center last year when we first visited, but i made it out to the outlet too. that is where the more affordable stuff is. it was almost too full of selection. i bought one shirt and a mug with a helsinki cityscape on it. i will have to come back alone, and with a purpose next time. i certainly loved seeing all the cheerily dressed employees. its also the the first "designer" house where i want to own nearly everything.
-ruoholathi shopping center. easy to get to even though its the far western edge of the city (we are north east). it has an indoor kids playground (that we havent been to yet) and is near the canal park i mentioned above.


(store front of aarikkas city center location)

food:
-eat&joy market in kluuvi. a fancy, expensive, specialty goods store. i will be peek in there from time to time for gifts. there are lots of goodies to sample, and i think it would be a good place to bring visitors.
-karl fazer cafe. this is the most widely famous bakery in finland. it supplies tons of grocery stores in the helsinki area. their bread is quite tasty, and their pastries look good, but we havent tried most because they arent always lactose-free. they do make a variety of chocolates too. we went to their original cafe in central helsinki for brunch one day. it was 39€ for us to eat, and while it was a nice spread, im not sure it was worth it. and they were cramming people in to tables that didnt really fit everyone and their winter gear.
-cafe engel. right across from the church on senate square. its a nice location for a cafe and you pay a premium to eat/drink there.
-ravintola sunn. its right above cafe engel, across from the church on senate square. we were taken here when dave came for the interview for brunch and have since gone back. the brunch is the same expensive price as elsewhere, but with great views and more variety and fancier food. id say its worth trying this place.
-hietalathi market hall (hietaladen kauppahalli). it used to be the antique/art flea market but they temporarily moved the old markets (vanha kauppahalli) food stalls over here while they renovate. we scored some tasty lactose-free sweet treats and a DEElish shrimp lunch of boullibaise soup and toast skagen (shrimp toast). neither would normally appeal to me, they seemed too simple and too shrimpy for my liking, but im glad i was wrong. they were great (probably the first really memorable food experience here)! we also spoke to some nice people at the communal tables there.
-NYCBurger. this is in the ruoholathi shopping center, and they actually do a decent burger. i didnt love the 10€ pricetag though.

finn/finland notables:
-the freeze/melt season is dangerous here. i was going along thinking i hadnt seen anyone slip or fall on the ice/snow covered sidewalks here. but during this freeze/thaw time, not so much. ive even seen blood on the ice in particularly slippery areas. people do seem to wear removable boot grips on their shoes/boots for the ice (kinda like snow tires for cars). thankfully none of us slipped and fell and hurt ourselves.
-finnish women are quite strong, independent ladies. ive heard there is kind of a trend for them to go abroad and get themselves a non-finn mate (as ive noted finnish men seem to almost be invisible here, cant put my finger on it).

28 March 2013

Shipment ahoy!

well, color me shocked but our stuff finally arrived...problem: i dont even want it.

so, our things FINALLY arrived today (3+ months after being picked up...they had quoted 6-8 weeks). the happy news was that at least on the finland side things went as smoothly as ever. the stuff got off the ferry in helsinki from sweden and was driven up to us on the day, and nearly the exact time they quoted us. it took less than an hour for the guys to unload the truck and they spoke english. hooray finland, i like your organizational skills. the mover chatted with dave at the end and blamed the UK for holding our stuff for so long before transferring it to us. he said that kind of thing would never happen in finland. lol. i love how appalled they get by things that inconvenience people.

the only problem was...i didnt really want any of our stuff. X was happy for her books and toys to be sure, but ive fallen in love with finnish homegoods (arabia, iitalla, marimekko, finlayson, muurla) and want to fill my cupboards with that, not our blah. oh well. actually, i cant afford to stock our cupboards with that stuff in one load anyway, so at least this way we have time to slowly amass an eclectic collection of things from the local companies.

another bonus was that today was the first major spring melt day. the spring cleaning vibes were very helpful for unpacking and looking at all the musty bags of laundry i was to encounter in the weeks to come (we only having a drying rack here).

24 March 2013

Treat that w-itchy palm

pretty cute traditions here for palm sunday. im also digging my rad title for this post. its the little things...

so, palm sunday here. its like a 5 months belated halloween. the decorations involve a mix of witches, treats, eggs, and chocolate. little girls (mostly, though boys can get in on the action too) dress as old ladies/witches on palm sunday and go from house to house chanting a little rhyme that basically says they are here to chase out the bad spirits, in exchange for a treat. days before palm sunday, girls can be seen collecting pussy willow branches (pretty much the first sign of spring here). they then take them home and decorate the branches with ribbons and feathers. after chanting their rhyme, they offer a pussy willow stick to whomever gives them a treat. treats are usually chocolate eggs or similar. it was quite cute to see them wandering around, but we (luckily) avoided having any as visitors (we hadnt bought any candy!).

easter decorations around here are pretty subdued. they involve the standard animal babies (chicks, bunnies, lambs, etc) and eggs. there are also plenty of little witches on broomsticks dangling in stores and for sale as home decorations. i also saw most home/store windows had a vase filled with decorated pussy willow branches. after palm sunday (presumably after collecting a batch from local little girls), the pussy willow branches are further decorated by hanging hollow painted eggs from them.

also, easter treats sold here that i dont see in the US include fazers mignon eggs (chocolate somehow poured into real hollowed out eggshells) and the hugely popular european treat, kinder eggs (banned in some places because a few kids choked on the toy prizes inside).

10 March 2013

Ou-lu[k] the arctic circle is nearby

dave had a work meeting in the town of oulu, finland (at the university of oulu) and we tagged along. a lovely little town close to the arctic circle. it was cold indeed (average temp of 12F the week we were there), but worth the trip.

a bit about oulu (pronounced oh-lu)...it has a population of about 191,237 people (making it the most populous city in northern finland). it was founded by a swedish king in 1605, and a major fire in 1822 destroyed much of the city. the same architect who designed the famous senate square in helsinki was asked to redesign oulu, so the resemblance is clear. oulu used to be known for its wood tar and salmon, but in recent decades has become a kind of "silicon valley" of finland. according to wikipedia, it 'is considered one of europe's "living labs", where residents experiment with new technology at a community-wide scale.' other quirks of note: oulu is home to the world air guitar championships and the male choir called "mieskuoro huutajat" (translation: screaming men). it also has a HUGE bicycle community.

  
(oulu location in finland; where our hotel was in oulu, VERY good location)

march 6 (wed):
the trip started with a looooong walk to our nearest airport bus stop. blah. to make up for it, we were able to relax in the lovely helsinki airport before the flight (its clean, has a variety of good food and awesome souvenir stands, and phenomenal kids areas). while we waited, we got X a toy airplane from the stockmann store.

we had a hard time landing in oulu due to a driving snowstorm, and afterward, we missed two buses that would have taken us in to town. once on the bus, we drove through a plentiful amount of woods to get to the town of oulu. we noted an abundance of traffic during their rush hour, something i dont really see in helsinki. we were tired and frozen when we finally arrived, so we just ate at the hotel restaurant, which turned out to be decent (we had chicken pasta and reindeer). afterward, while killing time in the lobby before bed, we were shown the kid/toy corner of the lobby/restaurant. nice.

march 7 (thurs):
started the day at the big buffet breakfast in the hotel (yum with a thousand choices). when dave went off to work meetings, X and i bundled up and poked around their market hall (kauppahalli). just outside the market hall is the bronze statue, toripolliisi, which is probably the tourist image of the town (and is famous i guess because its the only publicly displayed sculpture by the artist). our next stop was to stockmanns toy department (dont roll your eyes at me, it was before 10a and nothing else in town was open, and it was cold out! plus, i was able to start thinking of X birthday gifts). after buying food at the stockmann grocery we went to the towns "weigh n save" for more snacks. conveniently (and randomly) the store had a door that led in to the neighboring place, a huge toy store. then it was time for lunch and a nap in the hotel.

  
(kauppahalli; some other buildings on the market square)

in the afternoon we did some errands: post office and k-market for diapers (since finland doesnt have laundromats, i decided on disposables for this trip, first time ever). then we did the towns gem of a library. it was actually a stones throw from our hotel on a little island with the towns theater, and while the buildings outside looks "blah" the inside is dreamy. there is a cool and interesting fountain, lots of glass and staircases, a great children english book section, and parked outside were mountains upon mountains of bikes. it was beyond frigid out there most days, to me, but people were biking everywhere in very comfortable, cool, functional looking bikes. it seemed weird to NOT be riding a bike in the sub-freezing snowy town. and, for dinner that night, we again gave in to the hotel restaurant (my ham/cantaloupe pizza was yummy though, and they gave X an angry bird sucker). for post-dinner lazing about we watched a french bike race on tv. X was enthralled.

  
(in a little park with public art across the street from city hall; out front of the library [kirjasto])

march 8 (fri):
did the hotels buffet breakfast to start the day again. then X and i attempted the hotel pool (frigid) and wound up naked in the sauna. lol. kid loves the sauna (i think she was secretly slipped finnish genes in the womb). then we hit the library again. for lunch we indulged in a pancake (pannukakku) lunch of ham/cheese and raspberry jam/whipped cream. the pancake house (pannukakkutalo) was able to make everything lactose-free, i let us wallow in the calories because its such a rare treat to have her dietary needs met like that.



bellies full of grease, we went out to try for Xs first movie theater movie. it was so cold and the town is fairly small so i was running out of ideas. turns out i should have tried a little harder to find something else to do because our first movie experience wasnt exactly smooth. i had chosen some underwater cartoon adventure that was rated "K-7" with a picture of a spider (i assumed this meant potentially scary renderings of things like sharks [a la "finding nemo"] which X has been okay with, so we were good to go in my mind). well it turns out finland has pretty strict movie regulations for kids. even WITH my attendance a child has to be 4 years old to see that movie. :( i felt stupid. but, they mentioned that another "S" rated (for all ages) movie was just starting and we could catch that one. i said fine. it was some live-action childrens movie about a character popular since the 80s called "rölli [ja kultainen avain]". to get the tickets you had to actually choose your theater seat. really? do finns hate interacting with each other that much that they have to assign seating. okay. then we get in the theater (the movie is about 5 minutes in already, so its dark) and, working off a mental image of the floor plan in virtually all north american theaters, assumed there was a walking path between the first 8 or so rows and the rest of the stadium-style seating. wrong. i fell in to a row of seats (mercifully not populated with people). we then walked down in front of the screen and up the other side to our assigned seats. we settled in and X thankfully paid attention for most of the movie. it was weird though, while there were clearly parts where people were supposed to be laughing (its a kids movie, and seemed comedic to me) no one made a peep the whole movie. really? strange.

for dinner, we finally got out to a middle eastern place called hagia sofia. they had good food and were great with kids. back at the hotel, we vegged watching ski jumping and macgyver on tv. X really loves her obscure european sports.

march 9 (sat):
dave birthday. happy frozen winter wonderland birthday to you!

we did the brunch buffet together as usual and then embarked on a crisp walk through oulus hupisaaret park to their tietomaa science center. what a GREAT place. we all had fun. there was an "xy" (male v female, skills-based) exhibit, a vehicle "time machine" simulator, a roller coaster simulator, and marble games (big marbles spiraling down a funnel, and marbles on a series of tracks). X had a great time with pretty much everything in the place, but she really loved the marble stuff and the simulators. daves stomach couldnt take more than one round in the roller coaster simulator, but X went three times.

  
  
(walking to through the park to the science center; watching the marble go down the tracks; dave so could not play for the UM basketball team)

we then introduced dave to the pancake place for lunch. we had 4 pancakes to share, dave chose some tasty ones: apple/bacon and dark chocolate/pear. after eating we just went back around to places in town X and i had already been: the kauppahalli for souvenirs, the toy store for some small things, to stockmann for beer and snacks. then, we set off for dinner at a traditional finnish place on a island just beyond the librarys island. the restaurant is called sokeri-jussin and we chose: reindeer/mashed potato/pickles/lingonberry sauce and pike perch with a creamy chantrell mushroom sauce for meals and a lingonberry creme brulee for dessert. nothing was super fantastic, but it was tasty and a good choice for a birthday meal. and, back at the hotel, just because it made me laugh to see it on tv we watched a bit of the awful teen movie "whatever it takes", the finns choose to populate their sparse tv channels with some strange things.


(sunset on the way to dinner)

march 10 (sun):
we basically just woke up and did the breakfast buffet and got a taxi to the airport since there were no airport buses until 10:45a on sunday apparently. the airport was just opening for the day when we arrived at 10a. quite a small place. and i certainly do dislike the finnish (or broader regional?) trend of airport security being set up in such a weird way...they have the stack of plastic bins for going through the scanner area on an island fairly far away from the actual conveyor belt. what the hell am i supposed to do if traveling with a child? load up 4 bins over at the island station and then calmly shuttle my 4 loads over to the line at the scanner belt. no thanks. 

09 March 2013

Delicacies for dave

for daves birthday i went to a couple places in the city to gather some gourmet, local treats. i was about 50% successful at choosing winners.

for my first outing, i snuck off to the flagship alko store downtown right before i met up with a finn for drinks. i was able to use ratebeer to help me choose 3 beers for dave that were his style, and they turned out to be to his liking too. for my second outing, i took X to the eat & joy market and chose 3 sweet treats of local origin: bean-to-bar dark chocolate (beans were of madagascar origin, but all other chocolate making processes were done in helsinki), raspberry gummy squares, and salty licorice/salmiakki (this is a particular national specialty...that does not mean it isnt gross).

(hornbeer brewerys dryhops, malmgård brewerys huvila esb, mikkellers breakfast stout)

01 March 2013

Fun finn facts #2: food

i suppose this should be viewed as an introductory food entry. we havent been here very long, so seasonal treats and regional delicacies are relatively unknown to us. but this is what we know of the food so far.

food/meals, in general:
-items are extremely well labeled for people with food allergies. i cant recommend the country highly enough for that.

-for breakfast, they seem to eat porridges (oat, rye, rice, etc) and/or cold open faced meat/cheese sandwiches. veggies, fruits.

-for lunch, there is always a wheat bread and rye bread option, and the amount of grown adults ive seen drinking milk (possibly whole milk) is staggering. these people are dairy consumers! there is also always a watered down red berry juice drink option. dessert doesnt seem to be a major factor (at least for lunch), maybe because they have sweet breads when they have their coffee breaks (twice a day it seems).

-thursdays are (for whatever reason) traditionally pea soup days for lunch. usually afterward a pancake with jam is consumed.

grocery store differences:
-vanilla sugar is WAY common. i dont see many nuts or nut butter (or its WAY expensive). there are lots of deli meat options, oatmeal/porridge varieties, yogurt options (tart, sweet, super sweet, and other weird yogurt cousins, see "speciality items" below), oat-based dairy-free choices, lactose-free products. they sell bouillion cubes instead of boxes of soup broth. i see many juice options have probiotics in them...why?

-things that are NOT easily found in the regular grocery stores here: cumin, brown sugar (at least as we know it in the US), maple syrup, ziploc-style bags.

-the produce area. fairly standard, but you get to choose which company/country (from about three) will be your banana/orange/apple supplier. herbs are sold in mini pots, so they are still alive-ish when you take them home.

-the meat area. i dont really see things like chicken wings or boneless thighs here, just various sized chunks of breast meat (seriously it looks like they hack it up in to random different sizes).

-dairyland. compared to the US there isnt a huge selection of shredded cheese, but there are tons of choices for bricks of cheese. maybe people grate their own as needed? as for yogurt area...there is a flow from drinkable yogurt to the typical yogurt cups we see in the u.s. interspersed with lactose-free cow milk choices, to the oat-based "yogurts" and soy yogurts, it then blends to more sweet puddings, and then into this stuff called "viili" (a kind of yogurt that is made from fermented milk, it has the consistency of snot, which i know is not appealing). the yogurt area continues on to include the more plain/tart options as well as the lovely "rahka" which translates to "quark" but the quark i knew in canada at least was always savory, this stuff is like yogurt dessert mousse and it is so tasty.

-canned goods. there are tons of jarred/canned exotic mushrooms, a sparse choice of canned beans, and a disturbing amount of canned pineapple.

-condiments. we are back on the continent of REAL dijon mustard [yes!] and their mayonnaise here is often in tubes? actually, an expat friend said that mayo makes finns very nervous because if it hasnt been refrigerated properly they get freaked that it could make them sick. they are very wary of it.

specialty/local food items (tasted so far):
-karelian pasties. from the region (karelia) that is technically a part of russia but heavy in finnish history/culture, these are a thin rye crust filled with rice. a typical topping is butter mixed with hardboiled egg. they are quite bland, but have lots of potential for adapting as you like.

-pulla (generically this means "sweet bread"). these could be sweet cardamom buns, cinnamon buns, or even doughnuts (ones with a bright pink icing and raspberry filling are popular, called "berliininmunkki").

-berries. they LOVE berries here, because their climate grows mountains of the wee things. ones weve never heard of before. weve only really, knowingly tried cloudberries, lingonberries, and buckthorn berries, though i think there are other ones out there that are still foreign to us. of course the strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, and currants are familiar to us, though a bit tarter than the north american kinds.

-kiisseli. seriously unsure about how to describe this one. i think only children must really favor this, though its really not that sweet. its strange. a sort of starched fruit soup. not bad, just weird.

-salty licorice (salmiakki). whats not to like, its described as 'a variety of licorice flavored with ammonium chloride. ammonium chloride gives salty licorice an astringent, salty taste (hence the name), which has been described as "tongue-numbing" and "almost-stinging"'. peh. although dave says its growing on him.

-marjakeitto (berry soup). still not sure who eats this when, but its sold in the juice aisle. i think when ive encountered it ive mixed it in to my oatmeal, which is very likely not the "right" way.

-runeberg torte. a wee cardomom sponge cake soaked in orange-y liquor with raspberry jam on top and icing. its only available in late january and early february in honor of the poet who was said to eat them for breakfast everyday.